A Case Against Coronavirus Tunes
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because when it comes to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, we need reverence, not parody.
This is an opinion piece in the form of an immodest proposal. Please let us know what you think of the idea in the comments below.
Sometimes we laugh because it’s all we can do. The giggle, the smile, the flippant disposition can arrive unannounced, almost as if humor is our soul’s natural remedy to combating pain. No one questions how we grieve because it’s our grief to be had. But laughing at yourself is different from the mockery of others.
This is why COVID-19 parody songs are absolutely unacceptable, even as they take over the internet. Take Detroit rapper Gmac Cash. His song “Coronavirus” has amassed more than 3 million views on YouTube since its release on March 15. Among the highlights: “I ain’t shakin’ no hands, I don’t want a hug / Make sure you wash your hands with a lot of love / So if you got that CV, they gon’ find you / If you coughin’, I ain’t tryin’ be around you.”
If rap isn’t your thing, one family piled up in their living room to make a self-isolation adaptation of “One Day More” from Les Misérables. The choir of mom, dad and four kids made the BBC with lyrics such as “Our grandparents are miles away / They can’t work Skype! We’re brokenhearted.”
But if these efforts are so noble, why would any come with a disclaimer? Songwriter Dana Jay Bein and vocalist Adrian Grimes released a parody of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” refashioned as “Coronavirus Rhapsody,” with Grimes using the description to defuse those who declare it insensitive by talking about how his wife works in health care and “I know where these [critics] are coming from.” Sorry, but songs such as his are still tone-deaf, performed from the pedestal of good health.
Yet there can be benefits. Dr. Daniel Block, a psychiatrist in West Grove, Pennsylvania, says laughing is a way to defuse darker emotions. “Humor is one of the highest forms humans can use to deal with stress and trauma,” he says.
It’s true that humans have often found music in tragedy. Many believe that the song “Ring Around the Rosie” references the bubonic plague. According to some scholars, the “ring” refers to a circular rash from the disease, “posies” was a nod to the tradition of carrying flowers and herbs in hopes of a cure and falling down was, well, death. Likewise, spirituals and many African-American church hymns are byproducts of slavery. Songs such as Bruce Springsteen’s hit “The Rising” were inspired by 9/11.
What you will find, though, is that none of these songs are intended to be funny. They encourage, inform, inspire or vent. In fact, right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many radio stations stopped playing songs they deemed insensitive. So what makes the coronavirus so different?
Block says that unlike past tragedies such as 9/11 or the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings, there’s ongoing confusion — and, amid political debates over lockdowns and the virus’ origin, we’re not all on the same side. “We’re using humor to deal with uncertainty and stress,” Block says.
If that’s how you deal, go ahead and zone out to YouTuber Sharon Luxenburg and vocalist Miri Zhavi’s corona version of “Little Town” from Beauty and the Beast, dance along with Brent McCollough’s Bee Gees parody “Stayin’ Inside” or croon along with Chris Mann and his coronavirus Adele mashup.
But while there is still no vaccine, and families, essential workers and communities are clinging to what faith they have left, I won’t be yukking it up. Instead, I’m standing with the godfather of music parodies, “Weird Al” Yankovic.